by Brevard Nelson, CEO of Caribbean Ideas Synapse
In the “New Normal” of a COVID-19 world, marketers must use smart and flexible ways to strengthen their brand’s strategic position. While checking the boxes on the brand’s list to achieve short term results, one still needs to pave the way for sustained future success.
We live in an ever changing world; the pandemic has clearly demonstrated that we need to build solid strategies but also be agile enough to adapt to the needed changes.
Using technological advancement as a proxy, in my lifetime, I have seen exponential growth and changes that sometimes largely go unnoticed to those not directly using them or involved. One example I like to use is, in high school, I walked around with cases of floppy disks each storing a whopping 1.44 megabytes of data and that was the best technology at the time. Fast forward to today, you can easily hold gigabytes on your pen drive and data scientists are capturing and analysing petabytes and exabytes of data. That is a huge leap.
And things are only going to continue to change rapidly…
If you lack the flexibility as a marketer, you will not be able to respond quickly enough or in some cases even proactively to changes in your environment and therefore risk appearing unaware of what’s driving your industry. From my own observation and discussion with marketing leaders, I believe once marketers remain agile and prioritise the following areas, they’d stand a great chance at strengthening their brand’s position in the “New Normal”:
1. Pay attention to how your customer’s behaviour is evolving
Consumer behaviour is changing before our very eyes. Many new habits spurred by COVID-19 are here to stay. Marketers must monitor these changes very carefully and be flexible enough to adapt to them.
Acknowledge the landscape pre-pandemic, a lot of it still applies
For a long time, the modern-day consumer has been hyper-connected and always-on. Pre COVID-19, we were already in the fourth industrial revolution as described by the World Economic Forum, characterised by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres. We already lived in a world where AI, robotics, marketing automation, 3-D printing, and nanotech existed.
These technologies have been around for a long time though adoption was not as high as it could have been in the Caribbean. The global pandemic has become the catalyst, that forcing function, for the technological change we needed and some practitioners have been calling for, some 10 to 15 years ago in our region.
The noteworthy media consumption changes
Across all demographics we have seen a shift in content consumption patterns to include all digital communication channels. A recent study shows that Gen Zers have increased online video consumption. Millennials are also watching more video, but also broadcast TV because people are home. Some of these patterns were already on an upward trend before, but the pandemic was an accelerator which forced more frequent usage and for longer periods of time..
It’s important for marketers to keep a close eye on these trends because if you are not where the consumers are spending their time, you will totally miss them and they in turn will think you are irrelevant or don’t understand them. Any marketers and brands that had not re-calibrated when lockdown came, would be feeling the effects now. If you don’t act now you will continue to lose ground with your consumers and your competitors will happily take your place..
Tap into the Data available
There may not be an abundance of consumer data in our part of the world, but it is important for marketers to intelligently use what is available. I would encourage local marketers to use international studies, but to extrapolate based on your knowledge of your brand, and environment.
When you start dissecting the demographics and you examine behaviour and lifestyle patterns, you would find that international statistics are not far removed from what you experience with your own consumers. But also, don’t forget that nothing replaces your own empirical data that you are able to capture.
I urge…don’t disconnect from your customers because of the rate of change. In fact make that commitment to keep abreast of all the changes in behaviour and consumption patterns utilising data. Have an appreciation of new platforms and how people consume content and think about how you would add it to your marketing mix, to your arsenal of tools. Of course not all platforms will be relevant for your brand but you cannot afford to be left behind if your customers have migrated.
2. Invest in great contactless customer experiences
Marketers, be selective about how best to contact your customers. This will not only apply during lockdown, but far into the future. You’d find that you can pick up important information about consumer preferences. One message which is coming out loud and clear during the pandemic is that customers enjoy contactless services.
How to adapt to the new normal
Brands need to focus on how to create those contactless experiences for customers to better access their services. Many people will now gravitate towards brands that are reducing the friction to interact with them. They will ask—to what extent do I want to or need to interact with a human? Can I complete this process more efficiently via a contactless process? Are there any other brands (your competitors) making this more seamless and easier?
Any brand that is not investing in ensuring their products and services aren’t only accessible physically, are risking their organisation’s business continuity. We have already seen in our financial services market that when millennials and Gen Zers were not able to do certain transactions online, they gave their business to smaller banks who understood their needs better.
Marketers, in the “New Normal” your consumers will remember what you’ve done to secure convenience. If you return to the way things were before COVID-19, you would actually be viewed as taking a backward step.
How to begin charting your contactless brand experience? Put yourself in the mind of your customer
Ask yourself the question—What can my brand do to make the customer’s life easier? Then, imagine their thought process…Yes, I can go in to a grocery store to pick up my goods and check them out, but why not from the comfort of my home have it packaged and have it delivered or ready for me to collect?
We are already seeing forward thinking supermarkets implementing self-checkout kiosks which is an example of near contactless or low touch solutions on the retail side.
That’s the direction we are heading. Brands in the CPG space aren’t exempt from this opportunity. Previously, where you may have been fighting for shelf space, you can connect directly with your customer through digital channels and e-commerce platforms or you use technology so that the purchase is done conveniently online.
3. Recalibrate your Marketing Mix
Once you have a deep understanding of your current customer’s habits and lifestyle, you can determine what your marketing mix should be, factoring in other variables like industry and product.
Altering your spend patterns
Once there is a recalibration in your mix, it’s important to know that your spend would also need adjustments.
It’s important for marketers to think about the type of interactions they would want before choosing the right array of channels. This goes beyond communication, but includes technologies like augmented and virtual reality. Some zoos and museums are doing virtual tours during the pandemic to open up to a wider audience and secure their audience’s loyalty.
You have an opportunity for additional revenue streams because you now have potential, additional audiences to market to. That is the level of thinking that is required in this new world if brands are to survive.
Marketers must justify their space
Marketers have long lobbied for a seat at the table, but sometimes if a marketer is asked about return on marketing investment by a CEO or CFO, and they are unable to quantify it or show a meaningful link to business objectives, they are not taken seriously. But if you are able to show and measure the impact of your efforts, then you can justify your space and your budget.
If marketers are not proactively thinking about their budgets or showing ROI, they cannot build a case for their budgets. This could mean that your budget is subject to big cuts when your organisation is trying to control expenditure.
Unless marketers are prepared to apply science to the art of marketing, they are always going to be seen as a cost centre. Some marketers are great at the aesthetic and creative side, but when it comes to using data to make decisions or show ROI, that is usually where they need some assistance. Plugging this gap will go a long way to helping marketers strengthen their hand in the new normal.
In the “New Normal” you’d need to adapt to significant and sometimes permanent changes. Remember the three keys to success in strengthening your strategic position: Pay attention to evolving customer behaviour, invest in great contactless experiences, and be smart about adjusting your marketing mix.
Taking an approach where you leverage off your digital spend allows you to test your channels to see the response. If you don’t take the opportunity to measure your efforts you will be setting yourself back. These channels are here to stay.
The demographics like the millennials and Gen Zers will use them even more. Gen Xers and boomers will leave and move on as a demographic. Brands that are not prepared to make the shift or recalibration will be left behind. This is a time period where as a business you adapt or die.
Brevard Nelson is the Co-Founder and CEO of Caribbean Ideas Synapse. He has over 20 years of experience in the world of Marketing and Communications. He is impassioned by our Caribbean region utilising technology to drive development. When he’s not working with Team Synapse on integrated marketing client strategies, he’s actively giving back to his alma mater, St. Mary’s College as well as the music industry.